Archive for May, 2014
Keep an eye out for Sky and Telescope magazine’s Mars 2014 issue!
Mars – Mysteries & Marvels of the Red Planet is a fascinating look at the Red Planet, making use of maps, photos, and in-depth articles on a number of topics, such as the history of water on Mars, sniffing for methane on that enigmatic world, as well as the on-going hunt for dead or alive Martian biology.
In our co-written article, Buzz Aldrin and I discuss settling the Red Planet in a sustainable way – spotlighting a possible site on Mars for the first human landing.
There’s a treasure-trove of information in this Mars 2014 issue – and once read, I think you’ll see the Red Planet in a new light.
They are big. They are bad. What to do with Earth-slamming near-Earth objects?
I was pleased to assist the Secure World Foundation in preparing their new just-released document:
Near-Earth Objects: Responding to the International Challenge
This booklet has been designed to bring into focus the key issues faced by the international community in dealing with the threat of near-Earth objects (NEOs) and the prospect of a celestial body hitting Earth.
In particular, the booklet reviews the state of research on asteroids and summarizes the various efforts to mitigate potential future threats. It also identifies areas of future research and development.
To read the full report, go to:
As NASA’s Curiosity rover wheels about the Red Planet, the robot is on the lookout for habitable environments – sites that could have supported microbial life in the past.
But new research led by a Brown University researcher suggests that slopes of a giant Martian volcano — once covered in glacial ice — may have been home to one of the most recent habitable environments yet found on Mars.
Arsia Mons is the third tallest volcano on Mars and one of the largest mountains in the solar system. A new analysis of the landforms surrounding Arsia Mons shows that eruptions along the volcano’s northwest flank happened at the same time that a glacier covered the region around 210 million years ago.
The heat from those eruptions would have melted massive amounts of ice to form englacial lakes — bodies of water that form within glaciers like liquid bubbles in a half-frozen ice cube.
Lakes colonized by microbial life?
Kathleen Scanlon, a graduate student at Brown University, led the new research work regarding Arsia Mons, published in the scientific journal, Icarus.
Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the lakes could have persisted for hundreds or even a few thousand years, according to a press statement from Brown University.
That may have been long enough for the lakes to be colonized by microbial life forms, if in fact such creatures ever inhabited Mars.
The fact that the Arsia Mons site is relatively young makes it an interesting target for possible future exploration.
For example, the NASA Mars 2020 mission is a future rover designed to investigate key questions about the habitability of Mars, and assess natural resources and hazards in preparation for future human expeditions to the Red Planet.
The science instruments aboard the rover will enable scientists to identify and select a collection of rock and soil samples that will be stored for potential return to Earth in the future.
Scientists are now reviewing projected exploration sites for the Mars 2020 mission.
For more information on the Icarus paper, go to:
Also, go to the Brown University release:
The Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas has released an intriguing video on the future of their VASIMR engine concept.
Since the 1970s, starting at MIT and then for 25 years at NASA, astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz and his team of scientists have worked to develop a faster propulsion technology for space travel.
The result is the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine.
Today, former astronaut Díaz is Ad Astra’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
Ad Astra also owns and operates Ad Astra Servicios Energéticos y Ambientales (AASEA) and Ad Astra Rocket Company, Costa Rica, respectively supporting research and development subsidiaries in the U.S. and Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
VASIMR is a plasma rocket that can travel 10 times faster than a chemical rocket, uses 1/10th the amount of fuel, and can transport cargo more economically than any existing space technology. This advanced plasma space propulsion system is aimed at the emerging in-space transportation market.
The new video is a Boundless Media and Ad Astra Rocket Company film production and can be viewed here:
Buzz Aldrin and I had a wonderful day in Denver on Saturday, May 24th.
In promoting our book — Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration – we visited both the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Glendale, Colorado as well as the magnificent Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum gala event in Denver that night.
At both events we were welcomed by large and receptive audiences.
As for walking on the Moon, 45 years ago this July, “it’s slow and it’s dusty…but it makes for beautiful boot prints,” Buzz told the Barnes and Noble crowd. But Buzz also had strong words regarding the overall health of the U.S. space program.
At the Wings Over the Rockies gala, Buzz and I were joined on stage by his son, Andy Aldrin, President of Moon Express, Inc. Andy wrote a great foreword to our book and was an invaluable contributor to the entire book project.
For a look at part of our day in Denver, go to:
2013-14 State of the Future by Jerome C. Glenn, Theodore J. Gordon, and Elizabeth Florescu; The Millennium Project, Washington, D.C.; $39.95 US + shipping (soft cover); 2014.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” said baseball great, Yogi Berra. However, you can get a big assist in foretelling what’s ahead by reading an important book produced by The Millennium Project, an international participatory think tank established in 1996.
“Humanity is slowly but surely becoming aware of itself as an integrated system of cultures, economies, technologies, natural and built environments, and governance systems,” the book notes.
The Millennium Project has gathered the insights from creative and knowledgeable people around the world to identify and update prospects for 15 Global Challenges to provide a framework for understanding what is important to know about global change.
In terms of making use of space and aerospace technologies, this volume underscores what humankind faces when pondering our collective future. The book, in a sense, is a solid primer on how the space program may contribute to solutions. In fact, one of the books contributors, Theodore Gordon, was manager for the third stage of the Saturn V rocket.
In one general observation, what is needed is a U.S.-China 10-year “Apollo-like” environmental security goal with a “NASA-like program” that other nations can join once established. Indeed, the book also notes that a global collective intelligence system is needed, one that can not only track science and technology advances – but also understand the potential consequences of new and possible future scientific and technological advancements.
The book reviews the trends of 30 variables used to create a global State of the Future Index and provides a score card on humanity’s performance in addressing the most important challenges.
Again, this is not a book specific to space. Nonetheless, if one tenant of the U.S. space program is to bring space down to Earth, this is a wise read. Once you have read this volume, you’ll realize we’re clearly behind in appreciating what’s ahead.
Note: Check out a video that spotlights the report’s release and observations, held at the Woodrow Wilson Center. A panel discussion involves Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center, Jerome Glenn, CEO, The Millennium Project, and Paul Werbos, Program Director, National Science Foundation.
For more information on this book, go to:
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has busily snagged countless images of the Moon’s landscape and is nearing five years in lunar orbit.
To celebrate that approaching anniversary on June 18, NASA has invited the public to select a favorite orbiter image of the Moon for the cover of a special image collection.
You can vote on the final cover image from five possible candidates selected because of their beauty and/or scientific value by orbiter mission team members.
The winning cover image will be announced June 18 with the release of the full Moon as Art collection of 24 images.
The eye-catching images to select from are titled:
— Starry Night
— Linne Crater
— Clerke Crater
— Diviner North Pole
— Tycho Central Peak
Voting has begun and will close June 6.
So cast an eye, cast your vote at:
A modern satellite was on the receiving end of a hypervelocity destructive impact – not in space, but here on Earth. The experiment was designed to help scientists better understand the effects of space collisions.
The spacecraft was destroyed at an Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) in Tennessee. This appraisal teamed involved NASA, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, the University of Florida and the Aerospace Corporation.
The spacecraft – dubbed “DebriSat” — was designed and fabricated by the University of Florida and supplied to AEDC for purposeful destruction. DebriSat was a non-functional, full-scale representation of a modern satellite.
DebriSat was mounted within a “target tank” with a Range G light gas launcher capable of firing projectiles over one pound at speeds of more than 15,500 miles per hour.
The Range G launcher fires into a sealed test chamber that can be conditioned to simulate the low pressure environment of outer space. Destroying the satellite inside the chamber also allows the debris to be easily recovered for analysis.
That launcher gives a projectile enough kinetic oomph to cause the catastrophic destruction of the test satellite.
“We were well above the necessary impact energy to have a catastrophic destruction of the DebriSat, which resulted in a very successful test,” said J.C. Liou from the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
In addition to the DebriSat, AEDC Range G also helped the Department of Defense, NASA and the Aerospace Corporation perform hypervelocity impact experiments involving an upper stage of a launch vehicle dubbed “DebrisLV” and a spacecraft protection device commonly called a Whipple Shield.
David Woods, Range G installation engineer, noted the characteristics of the shooting gallery that is the target tank:
“Inside the chamber we line the walls with foam to stop the debris fragments from impacting the sides of the tank,” said Woods in an AEDC press statement.
“We call this debris recovery method ‘soft-catch’ since it prevents the debris from being further damaged by impacting the walls of the test chamber,” Woods said.
The DebriSat test results are meant to eliminate discrepancies in the breakup models of older spacecraft contrasted to present-day designs of satellites.
Data from the recent tests are expected to be of great benefit to specialists focused on the menacing issue of understanding and dealing with Earth orbiting debris.
An international center focused on better understanding of the issue of orbital debris has been established at the University of Maryland.
The Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) is to look into technology, space policy and economics, as well as legal and sociological issues.
A long-term goal of CODER is the development of policies, laws and space systems “that will lead to the efficient remediation and control of space environmental pollutants,” according to a CODER brochure.
CODER will be an international clearing house for research and educational programs on the orbital debris situation.
With over 60 countries operating in space, the exponentially growing problem of orbital debris will take international collaboration and partnership to research and develop innovative solutions and strategies.
A founding faculty has been established at the University, under the A. James Clark School of Engineering.
“CODER is the first academically led center established to address the full range of issues surrounding the orbital debris problem,” said founding faculty member and Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering Raymond Sedwick. “Most existing organizations focus on just one aspect of the problem—tracking, modeling, remediation, mitigation, policy, etc.—but CODER will serve as a research collective to provide expertise in all of these areas.”
For detailed information on CODER, go to: www.coder.umd.edu